Friday, July 18, 2008

Life Matters

One of our undergraduate Medieval Studies majors, Kevin Healey, is visiting Lourdes with his family. This is not just a summer vacation trip, but a true pilgrimage. Kevin is battling stage IV cancer. His family and friends have asked the Notre Dame community for their prayers while they are in Lourdes on the 150th anniversary of St. Bernadette's last apparition. On this past Wednesday, the day's-end Mass held at the Basilica on the Notre Dame campus was offered for Kevin. For information about his story, see Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers, or offer an expression of concern in a way that best suits your own spiritual practice and inclination.

There is a great deal of discussion on our campus and many other Catholic institutions about the meaning of "Catholic education." To me, one of the most enriching aspects of life at Notre Dame is the opportunity to seek the prayers of others for personal intentions. I am also very grateful to be in a "catholic" environment that allows interaction among different religious viewpoints. People of many faith traditions are in evidence on campus. In a single day, one can see a traditionally garbed nun, a grad student in a yarmulka, and a Muslim woman in a headscarf making their religious practice visible to others. Less-obvious signs of spiritual practice appear in lecture topics, announcements for groups like Zen@ND, and in kindnesses from those unattached to a specific faith tradition but with deeply held spiritual values. For example, yesterday's South Bend Tribune carried a story on a new book that came out of discussions between two Notre Dame professors--one an evangelical Protestant and the other a Catholic.

I am very glad to be in a place that values personal spirituality. The challenge, I think, is to provide ways for the inclusion of all persons within a framework that is dominated by a specific faith tradition. I rejoice when Notre Dame succeeds in doing so, and I feel deep concern when it fails to accomplish that goal. Kevin's response to his illness seems deeply grounded in a single faith tradition, but I think it offers something valuable to people outside that tradition. Courage and persistence in adversity sound very old-fashioned and cliched, but they are very basic to life success, nonetheless. Kevin's example is one that encourages me and moves me. I hope it does the same for you.

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